Ever since the beginning of his freshman year at UCLA, Shabazz Muhammad has been the target of an absurd amount of criticism. Sure, some of it is warranted, but at this point, it just seems like people are looking to find things wrong with him. He went into the year as a candidate to be the number one pick in the draft, but he saw his stock tumble until he was eventually picked in the middle of the first round by the Utah Jazz (who were picking for the Minnesota Timberwolves).
This drop in the draft was seen by many as a testament to all of the supposed holes in his game. While I am by no means saying that he is a perfect player that has no weaknesses, it is clear that his weaknesses have been far overblown, just like basically anything negative that he does.
Before I get to the weaknesses of his game, I’ll start with the media overblowing things regarding him. The most obvious instance of this was during the NBA Rookie Transition Program, where it was reported that Muhammad had been sent home early because he brought a girl back to his room. Big deal, right? Well apparently it was to the media, who had a field day with it, and relentlessly bashed his character. We later found out that the first thing he did was call and apologize to Flip Saunders, but of course we didn’t hear that part of the story.
Back to his game, though. After starting the year off as a well-rounded player with a dominant offense game, the perception of Muhammad slowly changed into people thinking that he was a one-dimensional scorer, and that scoring was all that he could do on the court. That is just simply not true, and recent reports that are coming out of Timberwolves camp are affirming that. In an article by Jerry Zygoda of the Star Tribune, head coach Rick Adelman has said that he has been very impressed with him thus far, especially with his offensive rebounding. He noted that he has no problem using his size to get on the boards, which is something that shows his work ethic.
With many rookies, you will see them sticking to what they know best, and what they are most comfortable with early on. That has not been the case for Shabazz, as he has committed himself to being one of the hardest workers on the team, and he is trying to improve every facet of his game, not just his shooting. This kind of willingness and motivation to improve his game is what is going to make him special, mark my words.
Given that Chase Budinger is now out indefinitely following knee surgery, Muhammad is certainly in line to see a lot more minutes. Corey Brewer, the man in front of him at the small forward spot, is a quality player, but nothing he does is all that impressive. With Muhammad, that couldn’t be further from true. If Budinger is out long enough, I think it’s only a matter of time before we see Muhammad take the reigns at the 3.
Even in a scenario where he doesn’t end up starting this season, there’s no question that he is still going to perform well in a bench role, as well as quiet any concerns regarding his character. I don’t foresee him having any problems off the court, and the only problems that he’s going to cause on the court are going to be for the opposing team.
Make note of this now, Shabazz Muhammad is one of, if not the most talented player that was in this draft class, and he’s going to prove that this season.
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